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How can you help your alcoholic parent?

A while back I wrote a post on Addiction Transfer to which where posted several comments. Recently, I received comments from one reader, Mary, who requested additional information about where to go for help for her alcoholic mother. Mary, this entry is for you.

First of all, let me start off by saying; I am not a therapist or a doctor. I am simply a resourceful, empathetic and persevering individual. My work in the field of mental health was primarily as a mentor, a life skills coach and as an advocate and proxy of therapeutic and medical care for people suffering from a wide spectrum of mental disorders. My advice comes to you only from the sources available to me, which are, at this moment in time, the internet and my experience knowing people who have dealt substance abuse.

The best thing for you to do is contact a professional in the field of alcohol addiction. My understanding is that with programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), they spend a great deal of time dealing with the root cause of the behavior. It sounds like there are other issues going on with your mother besides the past overeating and current alcoholism, as you have stated in your comments. In the long run, a program which dealt with the causes of the problem instead of just treating the symptoms (consumption of alcohol), would be most advantageous in order to fend off the possibility of her overcoming the alcoholism only to develop another addictive behavior, an Addiction Transfer. However, in the short term, and especially in cases where abuse of a substance is involved, I do believe that we must deal with the behavior right away versus putting off dealing with it because we can’t find a program that fits all of our long term needs. Because you don’t think you will be able to convince your mother to attend an AA meeting right away, I’ve done a little research and found a few other ideas to try first;

First and foremost, get help from a professional. If you aren’t comfortable asking around to find one, check out The American Council on Alcoholism, where you can search for treatment centers in your area, locate support groups for both alcoholics and friends/family of alcoholics and get more personalized help by calling their toll-free hotline. If you don’t live in an area where there are a lot of meeting centers, you can also attend online support groups, which you can also search for on this page.

Also, I highly recommend Al-Anon, a support group for families and friends of alcoholics. I’ve heard very good things about them. You can access their homepage here.

Finally, if you would like to find or request written materials visit The US Department of Health and Human Services Drug and Alcohol information page. At first glance, a lot of the information I found on this page was the typical anti-substance abuse literature for youth. However, when I clicked on the top sub-heading “Audience”, I was able to select the papers on a multitude of different demographic populations, including “Older Adults”, “Women” and “Parents”, all areas which you may want to browse through in order to find what you are looking for.

Lastly, do not to despair if the first attempt at utilizing these or other resources fails. If I have learned one thing in this life it is that most things worth doing take much practice. People will only change when they want to, so I guess it makes it our job to convince them to want it. If you have siblings or other willing family members, recruit them to the mission, you are going to need backup.

How can you help your alcoholic parent?

Jennifer Bechdel

Jennifer Bechdel, MBA is a freelance and technical writer, as well as a marketing consultant. She focuses on workplace issues, stress, and unemployment topics.

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APA Reference
Bechdel, J. (2018). How can you help your alcoholic parent?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 22 Feb 2007)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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